I’ve been thinking for a long time now (slightly encouraged by doing a weekly story) about how much I would really like to try writing a serial story.
To step back a little, American superhero comics never super interested me as a kid. One of the counselors at my daycare as an elementary kid was big into Marvel, and he had trading cards that he’d let us look at. I remember that was my closest moment of fascination with the franchise as a whole, because wow! Look at all these drawn characters — cartoons, I thought, because I was seven and didn’t know better — but with decidedly unchildlike stories and personalities. It was the sort of thing that combined the heft of the fantasy novels I was getting into with the cartoons that I still loved.
Of course, Americomics being Americomics and Marvel being Marvel — and this being the infancy of the internet — it was incredibly daunting and confusing for a preteen to even think of trying to collect things. Neither of my parents were interested, I obviously had limited funds, and my interest fizzled for lack of anything new to fuel it with. When I discovered manga in seventh grade, I was at least more independent, doing chores for an allowance and able to make my own purchases.
And while I don’t want to get into an argument of which is “better,” because that’s not a debate I’m prepared for and oh boy do both sides have legit pros and cons, the thing that I, personally, liked better about manga was ease and (relative) coherency of storylines. –By which I basically mean I didn’t have to track down titles through five different authors and seven different artists and various subtitles; a manga, for the most part, is at most a two-person team (with assistants, of course) — and more often it’s a single person’s story. Limited people are involved in the process of the creation, development, and writing.
(I have to confess, even in this heyday of the internet, with multiple good friends into both comics and the MCU, I’m STILL often incredibly confused about what’s what, and where.)
To bring it back around, manga introduced me to the idea of a serial story much more than my young childhood two-second flirtation with Marvel did. I was familiar with the concept of penny dreadfuls (or, more accurately, I was familiar with Charles Dickens and his writing), but that wasn’t really a thing that seemed to happen anymore. There was no reading one chapter a week and then waiting to see what the next chapter would bring.
(I guess that’s what TV sitcoms and dramas are, but while I did have shows I watched regularly, I liked the idea of writing better. Written things I could take with me to school and consume at my own time and pace; TV, I had to be there at the right time or else hope to catch a rerun later down the line.)
Manga, on the other hand, was a serial thing. There’d be a new chapter once a week, or once a month, or once a quarter, or whatever — the whole story rarely came out at once. Even in slice of life series, there’d be something new for the same characters to do in the next installment, written by the same writer and done by the same artist. I liked that midpoint between consistency and difference.
Drawn art, however, isn’t a medium I ever pursued. In middle school through my early college years, I did doodle; I drew a lot of very earnest but very bad anime knockoff art, but it wasn’t something I took seriously. Even now, the art I do is mixed media based, not drawing.
Writing was my focus, then as now. I didn’t know how to approach and artist to set up a collaboration, so at the time I convinced myself it wasn’t meant to be. Text-based writers didn’t get to do serial stories.
But over the years, especially with the blossoming of the internet, that’s definitely changed. I’ve seen other people pull it off; I’ve seen concepts of such things rise and fall — but even in falling, it existed. It was a done thing, a precedent set. Writing a serial story was something even I could do, if I put my mind to it. That’s an epiphany I keep having and forgetting. Though right now, in my time of trying to sort out what I want to be doing with my writing, the idea has a lot of appeal. I’ve even got a few ideas kicking around, though nothing solid yet. And I also admit a part of me that wants to time it “correctly” — the beginning of a month, a quarter, a year.
I’d like to think it’s not going to take me an actual year to get something sketched out, but here’s thinking. Here’s hoping.